What is the most dominate NCAA basketball program of all time? It’s a toss up between the UCLA Bruins men’s team and the UCONN Huskies women team. The Bruins had an unprecedented run in the 1960’s and 1970’s which is where a bulk of their records and dominance is centralized. Since 1995 the UCONN Husky women have been the bench mark of dominance in really any sport across the board. They are the most decorated, they win the most, they are the team that people complain about the most in their sport because they win so much. There is no argument that they could beat any men’s team in the men’s tournament, they can’t, and it doesn’t matter, its not the point or the argument. In the sport, they are the most dominant given the competition put in front of them year in and year out.
I struggled with this initially because in today’s political climate those of us on the left tend to over state “isms” (sorry but it’s true, racism, sexism, ageism, lefthandedism, too much painting with broad strokes) and when it’s not true or accurate it hurts our cause. At first I viewed the NPR interviewer’s question as poorly worded, then her follow up, questioning the qualification of best “female” player, I thought was unnecessary and backed Johnny Mac into a corner, and he not being the most sophisticated handled it the best he could. All wrong, I was completely wrong from beginning to end. There is no need to qualify the statement of whose the best tennis player in the world with a gender because the answer is Serena. Could she beat men, no, but that isn’t the question, the point, and it’s not relevant. When you look at dominance, wins, titles, decoration, status as an Olympian, the pressure, and scrutiny, it becomes very clear.
Most of us have a basic understanding of biology and science, so the argument about women competing against men is a silly debate and more of a deflection from a more critical analysis of how we define greatness in the world of sports. If greatness is only attached to physical capabilities, then the greatest Olympic Wrestler has to be a heavy weight, the greatest boxer has to be a heavy weight, the greatest UFC fighter has to be a heavyweight… the greatest weightlifter/powerlifter has to be a super heavy weight and so on, you see where this is going. As a side note, in powerlifting and weightlifting they took a stab at balancing the tables by adding a “wilks score” that balances out weight lifted in comparison to body weight to help determine best “pound for pound” lifter, but I digress. Since we know greatness is defined beyond just physical capabilities even when comparing men to other men, there is no good reason why women who are dominate in a sport cannot enter the conversation and prevail.
I made a mistake by thinking this wasn’t about feminism and sexism, but I was wrong, it is about those things. Once I moved past my initial gut reaction, and applied some basic critical thinking I was able to gain some clarity and realize I was wrong. My preconceived notion about a statement, the reaction, and other people’s feelings was wrong and rooted in some form of sexism. It’s people like me who probably do the most harm to the women’s movement because I don’t have these moments enough, I don’t always recognize or admit my male privilege or my own misogynistic views. The reason that makes me the most dangerous is because I have the intelligence and common sense to think more critically, see my mistakes and correct them, and when i don’t, that’s what causes the damage, that’s what makes me the weak link. It’s easy to identify the hard liner conservative with a confederate flag, telling his stripper girlfriend to get in the kitchen, easy to identify and easy to dismiss. It’s people, men specifically, like myself who should take the time to think about things we don’t always see on the surface, acknowledge when we’re wrong, or acknowledge when we need to step up, not as knights to save the day, but as allies to help fight the fight.
John McEnroe was a great tennis player, that was also a blow hard buffoon, that was rewarded for his buffoonery on a consistent basis years after he won his last title. I wanted to give him a pass, and allow him to use the victim card of being cornered by the interviewer, but that wasn’t the case. She caught him in a statement that lacked in critical thought, intellectual honesty, or true appreciation for what greatness is, and he recovered poorly. If he’s going to put himself out there is a public figure, promoting a book, we should expect from him in the way of analyzing sports encompassing both genders.
There will be some that agree with me and others that disagree, for those of you who disagree, I’m bigger, stronger, faster, and meaner than you so by John McEnroe’s standards doesn’t that make me right?